I am biologically an Afghan but geographically a Pakistani. I was born in Peshawar, Pakistan. I completed my education and got married here. Now, my children are getting their education in Pakistan and use medical facilities here as well.
Although Pakistan is not my “country” I have always considered it home. If a family lives in another country for four decades, that country becomes their own. For us, leaving Pakistan is like leaving our own country.
My parents migrated to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s capital, Peshawar, 40 years ago because of the ongoing war, just like many other Afghans. According to an estimate, 2m to 2.5m Afghan refugees live in Pakistan after settling here after the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
The Soviets left Afghanistan but the United States army arrived. They haven’t been able to bring peace till today, forcing Afghans to flee their homeland.
In such circumstances, the announcement of Pakistani citizenship for Afghans and Bengalis by Prime Minister Imran Khan is a good move. This historic decision has renewed the hopes of Afghans who now see a bright future ahead. This announcement is a ray of hope for young people like me whose parents fled Afghanistan 40 years ago, leaving everything behind because of the war. It gives us hope that our future won’t be like those people who don’t get proper meals and access to education and employment. They have to deal with issues like unemployment and terrorism.
People of Pakistan and Afghanistan share brotherly, religious and cultural ties. Pakhtuns live on both sides of the border and share the same ethnicity, culture and religion. Thousands of Afghans who migrated to Pakistan developed friendly ties with the people. This proves that people from both countries share a cordial relationship.
Whenever relations between the two countries are strained, it affects Afghan refugees the most, especially those youngsters, who are born in Pakistan, acquired their education in Pakistan, have businesses in the country and got married here. These youngsters get worried whenever Pakistan talks about sending Afghan refugees back because the thought of going back to Afghanistan scares them. Starting life in a country where there they have never lived, where there is no peace and basic facilities is a nightmare for young Afghans.
If Pakistan grants us citizenship, it will improve political and economic relations between the two countries. In my opinion, both countries should take this matter seriously because Afghans do not wish to go back to a war-torn country where they are likely to get killed.
The writer is a Peshawar-based human.